Bears linebacker Roquan Smith went public on Tuesday morning with his request for a trade. The Bears have not yet said whether they’ll give him what he wants. For now, they apparently won’t.
“I am told that the Bears are going to respectfully wait to comment on Roquan Smith requesting a trade,” tweeted Stacey Dales of NFL Network.
It makes sense for the Bears to be discreet. If they tell the world that Smith is available, their leverage becomes undermined. Besides, they don’t need to say anything. Smith’s request lets any interested team know that there’s good reason to make a call.
The fact that Smith doesn’t have an agent complicates the process. Interested teams can’t contact his agent (or vice-versa) to talk about what it would take to sign him, if they were to trade for him. And, yes, that sort of thing happens all the time. It will continue, even after the Dolphins getting caught red-flippered. But it’s impossible for teams to have those back-channel talks with a player who represents himself.
Agents who represent players throughout the league have constant reasons to talk to coaches and General Managers. They can cap a conversation about one player by having a hypothetical discussion about a player who technically is off limits. Smith can’t do that.
Of course, Smith could potentially secure permission to shop himself. The Bears hold the cards in that regard. Even then, it’s necessarily more complicated for a player to canvas the entire league in an effort to find a team that will pay him what he wants while giving the Bears what they need before they’d agree to a trade.
It’s unclear where it goes from here. Smith has been holding in. At some point, the impasse needs to break, either with a new contract or a commitment to play under the existing one. Obviously, efforts to work out a second deal have failed to date. The fact that Smith has opted to take a public stand against staying with the Bears proves it.
Maybe it was exactly the move he needed to make. Maybe it will break the logjam and get Smith the contract he has earned through four NFL seasons.
Remember this — the rookie wage scale flowed from a desire to prevent busts from removing money from the system. Players who pan out deserve to get new contracts as soon as possible. Given that Smith plays a position that entails a high degree of physical risk, he’s smart to be taking a stand to get what he should. We’ll now wait to see how the Bears respond to it.